wasting bandwidth since 1999

Spending Time Outside the Bubble

Last week, Karen and I did a session for the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) national conference being held here in the DC area.

Carrying the somewhat cheesy title of “Learn New Tech Tools”, we nevertheless had a good time with it. I think the folks who spent two hours with us enjoyed themselves and left with some new ideas.

Overall, it went well. Considering that none of it – the concept, title, description – was our idea.

This was one of those situations when someone else submitted the proposal, couldn’t travel to DC, and a friend of the local arrangements committee drafted us to fill in.

While I was pleased with our session, the conference as a whole, however, was another story.

For one thing, this NSDC meeting was only slightly more tech savvy than the one we presented at four years ago.

They offered no wireless access in the convention center (brand new this year) and we had to pull some strings to avoid paying for a connection to use in our heavily web-based session.

The lack of tech usage was especially apparent in the program, which was very thin on topics you might expect like online professional development or using the read/write web for instruction.

It was also reflected in the many presenters wheeling around piles of paper handouts, chart paper, and overhead projectors.

And then there were the keynote presentations. Both of those I attended were more like extended infomercials featuring bad PowerPoint shows with lots of text-heavy slides that were unreadable from many parts of the hall.

Ok, I know I’ve been spoiled by the extremely wired echo chamber in which I spend most of my time.

In the past few years, I’ve become very accustomed to have easy, almost continual access to a back channel populated by lots of smart people who have many innovative ideas for improving education and know how to present them in creative ways.

I guess being dropped into a professional situation which is largely cut off from that rich atmosphere of learning is somewhat jarring.

Maybe the next time we present at NSDC (another four years?), the organization will have learned a little more about the ever expanding options for professional development in the 21st century.


  1. Jennifer

    My jaw bounced off the floor when I heard the price of getting an internet connection. My co-presenter and I had set up a wiki, put our Twitter network on alert and were ready to blog about the conference. I don’t think NSDC is entirely responsible but NSDC could have worked with the convention center to get access. Hopefully St. Louis will be better.


  2. Dave

    I have no philosophical problem with people who choose to use analog technology over digital. It’s all about getting the job done, and I understand how important personal preference can be.

    But, the truth is that there simply is no echo chamber like the Internet. The people and groups who don’t participate just can’t keep up — they aren’t even aware that their best work is so deprecated that it can be embarrassing, such as bad PowerPoint slides.

    In the Rhee article in Time, when it says she walks out of meetings held for her benefit, I picture someone giving a long, rambling presentation consisting of them reading from bad, text-heavy slides, and I’m glad somedbody walked out, because I don’t have the clout to get away with it.

  3. Tom

    Wish I’d have known you were around, I’d have dropped in to say hello. It was a tech wasteland although I saw plenty of BlackBerry addicts getting their email fixes. . . .

  4. Dean Shareski


    What this says to me is we need to be more active in “cross curricular” conferences. NECC and other technology conferences are great but really, how much new and exciting things will we learn? I had the privilege to speak to a group of business men recently and those are the presentations that always excite me because I get to talk about things they have little idea about as you’ve done here.

    I realize your frustrations here but I hope overriding those frustrations was a sense of being with a different crowd. I know I have much to learn from folks in other areas which is why I’d like to see more of a concerted effort to have more cross discipline, less tech centric meetups where we talk about learning, aka EduCon. My guess however is that EduCon will still attract many who really don’t need to be there.

    That said, see you at NECC.

  5. Tim

    Tom: It would have be hard to find us since NSDC never got our names in the main program, despite agreeing to do this back in August. We’re you presenting?

  6. Tim

    Dean: I’m really looking forward to EduCon in part because it’s far more about education than tech. Chris has been working very hard to pull in people who are outside the tech bubble.

    A large part of the fun of going to “alternative” lsettings like NSDC is that I get to meet people who’s view of technology in education in a far different than those I usually hang out with. I just wish the conference organizers had made available the connections that would allow us to model some of the tools we’ve gotten used to using for our own professional development.

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